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CSCC Reports 2016Isles of Scilly - Oct 2016

A group of 7 CSCC paddlers travelled to the beautiful Isles of Scilly for some island hopping in July.

Friday

We drove down to Penzance – a long drive – with a joyous air of expectation. Rob and Stephen stopped off at AS Watersports in Exeter to pick up a new Avocet to replace the club’s grey one that had been leaking. Happily, the boat was ready for collection, with all necessary working parts, so no-one had to swap sports to swimming. We had a fine meal in the Admiral Benbow (mentioned in Treasury Island) in Penzance.   All but Fi and Mark camped.

Saturday

All assembled at the quayside ready for the “Scillonian” ferry. Our boats and luggage were winched aboard and we tried not to watch too closely.

We arrived just after midday and carried out boats along the quay in St Marys to the beach before heading off to find our apartment.

In the afternoon we paddled around the western "blob" of St Mary's. Hugh Town is like the bar in the middle of a dumbbell and the western ball is by far the shorter. The isthmus forming the bar in the middle of the dumbbell is so narrow that we could easily carry the boats across from one beach to the other but we chose to paddle round to get our sea buttocks. This was only a short paddle but proved to be a little testing as the swell was up. We left the boats on the Porth Cressa beach and walked the 50 metres or so to our flat.

Sunday: The weather was calmer, and so were nerves. As a result we had a lovely paddle round the ball at the other end of the dumbbell. We carried out boats back across the isthmus to Town Beach and set off round St Mary’s in a clockwise direction, adding a diversion to the lovely eastern isles for lunch in wonderfully sheltered sandy bay. We returned to Porth Cressa beach to discover that the club’s aging Shoreline was leaking. Rob and Stephen carried out some hasty field repairs (aided and advised by various passers-by) using fibreglass bought from a hardware shop in Hugh Town and hoped that it would last the week. It did.

Monday: Buoyed by the successful circumnavigation of St Mary’s we ventured to another island - Tresco. We walked round the famous gardens and then the group split. Fi and Mark paddled back to St Mary’s to the comfort of the flat. Everyone else paddled up round the northern end of Bryer taking advantage of the high tide to go through a gap in the cliffs. The waters around the north end of Bryer were pretty lumpy as soon as we were outside the “bowl” formed by the ring of islands, but all coped well and we set up camp on the lovely Bryer campsite before eating fish and chips in the “Fraggle Rock” pub. The two groups were able to communicate by walkie talkies between the islands so that we knew everyone had safely reached their destinations.

Tuesday: The campers paddled round the north of Bryer (we couldn’t use the short cut through the rocks this time), threaded our way through the Northern Rocks and headed south to Samson where we stopped for a break on Samson Flats. We decided to take advantage of the warm calm weather to paddle to St Agnes (rather than St Martins as originally planned). We radioed to let Fi and Mark know and headed directly to St Agnes (about 3km open water) working our way round the coast to the campsite on the eastern side of the island. We set up camp, had some lunch and then set out to explore some of the nearer Western Rocks.

The Western Rocks are just that – rocks - and they offer little protection from the waves or chance to land so provide a real sense of exposure to the Atlantic Ocean. Sarah displayed good skills when caught off guard by a wave breaking over submerged rocks by side surfing to calmer water. We had a good day’s paddling and headed back to the campsite. A burger and chips in the Turks Head pub in the evening went down very well.

Wednesday: Fi and Mark, fresh from a gentle paddle and a meal out in St Mary’s paddled to St Agnes and the two groups became one again on the sands of the bar between St Agnes and the Gugh. We then paddled round St Agnes, stopping for lunch 20 metres from where we had started on the other side of the bar) and again for an ice cream at the campsite, before heading back to St Marys. Mark stayed on the beach while the rest of us paddled round Annet (a small island off St Agness which is a nature reserve). We caught sight of a puffin and gillie Rob helped Sarah catch two fish (Pollock). Having gutted the fish (observed closely by the local gulls) we paddled back to St Mary’s. We landed on Porth Mellon beach for a change although this meant quite a long carry back to the flat. We all stayed in the flat on Wednesday night.

Thursday: we all paddled to St Martins.  Mark dozed on the beach. Stephen walked across the island, and everyone else paddled round it anticlockwise. The group came together again at about 4pm on the beach near the St Martin’s campsite. Fi, Mark, and Tom headed back to St Mary’s and the flat, leaving the others to camp for the night. Fi, mark and tom’s return trip proved to be the most challenging paddling of the week as strong winds, rain and lumpy water made progress slow. But they arrived safely back without incident and, again, the walkie-talkies enabled the group left on St Martins to be sure that they were safe. Rumours that excellent fish and chips were available at the southern end of the island proved to be well founded, and a pint in the Seven Stars pub rounded the evening off nicely.

Friday: Fi and Mark hired bicycles and explored the island. Tom did the same by foot. The group that had camped on St Martins paddled round the group of islands to the north between St Martins and Tresco, round the north of Tresco, including round Island and explored the ruined Pest house and hermitage on St Helen’s, came round the top of north Tresco, before heading south between Tresco and Bryer to Samson flats. We stopped for a break and carried out a check of whether we had missed any major groups of islands on the week’s tour. We felt we had given the Scillies a reasonable “going over” and were content to return to St Mary’s for the last night on the islands.

Saturday and Sunday: All but Stephen (who stayed on the island for a few extra days) travelled back to London.

Summary

We had an excellent trip overall. The apartment in St Mary’s was pretty good, with lovely views over the sea, although it was a bit cramped for the three sharing one room, and the shared bathroom was not really adequate. The boats were kept on the beach a few yards from the front door. With the exception of some repairs to the Shoreline, we had no problems with equipment and the boats performed well. The weather was kind to us – not bright sunshine everyday but generally dry not too windy. We visited all the major islands and camped on three of them.   The islands offered sheltered waters inside the island “ring” and more challenging waters when we ventured outside this area. We had high hopes that the islands would offer varied and enjoyable sea kayaking and they did not disappoint. Kayak-camping worked very well, although the two Shorelines were only just big enough to accommodate all the necessary kit.

 

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